When my husband and I found out that our daughters would be away for most of the summer, we decided to hit the road as well. Our first stop was Vienna, Austria. The last time I was in Vienna was almost 30 years ago. I had remembered little about Vienna except a Saturday morning flea market filled with great finds and delicious food. At the time, my sister and then brother-in-law owned a large antique import business. They traveled extensively all around the world and filled entire containers with some of the most amazing pieces. I managed to find the same market on this recent trip. Every Saturday morning at the end of Naschmarkt is an "antique" market. Wow, how times have changed. Instead, It appeared that people had cleaned out their closets, rolled all their belongs into a bed sheet and dumped it on the ground. So much for merchandising! I did manage to see some amazing crystal chandeliers and glassware for sale. And keep your eyes out for an old woman selling antique table linens and grain sacks. Her prices were reasonable and she was willing to bargain!
My favorite find of the day....sweet poppyseed bread just like my grandmother used to make. My grandmother was born in Czechoslovakia and wasn't much of a baker except for her poppyseed and nut breads. She would make this sweet paste out of the poppy seeds and then roll it into a bread and bake it. I actually managed to put one in my luggage to take back to my 89 year old Mom. I'm looking forward to seeing the smile on her face once my mom takes a bite out of the poppyseed bread!
Also on my list of favorite things is an ice cream shop called EIS. I love ice cream and can't resist a good cone every now and then. This shop makes the most amazing ice cream from farm fresh ingredients. Try the pumpkin seed oil ice cream.
I know it doesn't sound the best but the flavor was just like eating sweet pumpkin seeds. If you are traveling to Vienna and looking for an excursion you must also go to MELK. This town sits high above the Danube and is just exquisite. With it's cobblestoned streets and romantic architecture it is a welcome respite from the heat of the city. Try any of the apricot made products from this area. The glazed apricot seeds were my favorite.
Next stop Budapest!
This has to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It's certainly my favorite. Most of the city was bombed to pieces during WWII and the following Soviet "liberation" but much was rebuilt to replicate the original designs. Budapest has a certain pre-war charm and it's easily manageable on foot. First stop on my list was the central market. The central market is an old railway station converted into food and craft stalls. I have never seen so many kinds of salami and sausage in my life.
Many of the sausage and dried meats are seasoned with Hungary's world famous paprika.
The stall owners are all willing to give you a sample. The local handicraft at the market is also quite extensive. Some of the specialties include embroidery and cut work pieces, hand-painted household items and decorations, hand-painted eggs, unique handmade Christmas ornaments and much much more.
The prices are a little steep here but you can still find some great bargains. If you can appreciate that many of the pieces are handmade, then they are worth the price. We also took a day trip to a local artist colony and found much of the same but for less money.
My favorite was a sister and brother team selling some of the most amazing hand-embroidered items. I bought tons of hand embroidered placemats and napkins for the store. The owner was so sweet and gave me a hand embroidered wall hanging with a Hungarian "home blessing" as a token of her appreciation.
I would also suggest the Saturday morning flea market in Budapest called Petofi Csarnok. Many of the craftsmen and women come from the countryside to sell their wares. I met a young man selling antique embroidered linens. He told me that his grandfather had traveled the countryside for many years during the war and would buy hand embroideries from local villages. He is now in his 80's and wants to sell many of his pieces in order to have a comfortable retirement. He was so proud to be doing this in memory of his grandfather. I left his stall with two giant bags and a big smile. I love these kinds of finds! I am looking forward to selling some of these amazing pieces in my shop and you can expect some very special holiday items.
If you should ever come to Budapest don't miss the Terror Museum. It's one of the best museums I have ever been in my travels all over the world. This museum covers the Nazi occupation and the Soviet rule over Hungary. Though the subject matter is sad, it's a sobering reminder of the atrocities of war. You could easily spend a day here so leave yourself plenty of time. On a lighter note....I would skip the mineral bath houses that Budapest is famous for. My husband was dying to go so I reluctantly joined him. Imagine taking a bath with the Hungarian Army? That's what it felt like as I stepped into a warm crowded pool with 100's of the city largest and hairiest men. I counted down the minutes and than got out in search of another pool that was a bit cooler and less crowded. I found one indoors that was much less crowded and much cooler that was mostly filled with older women doing water aerobics. Little did I know that hygiene was such in such high regard when I was ordered out of this pool because I didn't have the required bathing cap. I couldn't believe they were concerned about my hair in the pool when most of the men swimming were covered in it.
Well so much for that!